DOBSON — Rising building costs and other needs have pushed a city school project over budget.
Mount Airy City Schools is looking to move its central office from Rawley Avenue into a converted Pike Electric location on Riverside Drive during the Christmas break.
Before the work could continue, the school system needed to bring some change orders before the Surry County Board of Commissioners this week for approval.
Change orders and rising costs have been a recurrent theme this year. The conversion of the former Dobson Plaza and the renovation of the historic courthouse have each brought dozens of unplanned changes before the board — some due to uncovered issues that need to be resolved and others related to the wants/needs of the people who would be moving into the spaces.
Then last month the board heard from Surry County Schools that three elementary school projects going out to bid next year could also cost more than planned — due to rising construction costs and tweaks that the school system wants. This would push the $29.4 million estimate from July up another $2.9 million.
As for the 22,500-square-foot Pike building, consultant Bill Powell told the city schools last year that estimates were running about $1.82 million for the work. This included creating offices, storage space, a 21’x61’ meeting room, and classroom space that could be used by the schools or another group like Surry Community College.
Bids came in a little lower than the estimate, and County Manager Chris Knopf recommended budgeting $1.6 million for the project in the 2018-19 fiscal budget.
This week Knopf presented a long list of issues uncovered while gutting the building. He said MACS was asking for $109,300 to cover the expenses that have come up. There are also many other changes the district would like to see made that it believes would make the office more usable to staff, but it is willing to put up the money for these improvements out of its own budget to the tune of about $194,000.
The commissioners asked what kind of problems were found, noting that there was a $90,000 contingency fund for such unforseen events.
Knopf presented the members with a copy of the list and noted that these costs would exceed the contingency.
The construction crews found asbestos that has to be removed professionally; that cost is estimated at $35,377. Water leaking into the building caused some damage to walls and paneling. Replacing the damaged material is estimated at $38,200.
Additional demolition of walls would cost $5,075, and installing additional framing and drywall is $22,200.
The biggest expense is just shy of $50,000 for the metal roof deck. The notes from the schools’ consultants state that the metal substrate that supports the roof is not of sufficient thickness nor integrity to bear the weight of the new roof — and maintain the roof’s warranty.
Commissioner Van Tucker said he can understand that these problems need to be corrected. However, these continuing overages and rising costs must be addressed at some point or the scope of the county’s long-range plans won’t work out.
“We have a budget, and at some point there will have to be a reckoning,” he warned.
Chairman Eddie Harris agreed, saying that the amount that the county is willing to finance for these projects is based on estimated revenue streams and maintaining good fiscal health.
While it would be unfair to penalize Mount Airy when some other projects have gotten their needed contingencies funded, Harris added, the county needs to stick with a good financial model when taking out bonds to pay for repairs and renovatioins going forward.
Commissioiner Gary Tilley said that when he oversaw project at SCC, he never had one run over the contingency fund, and this project is hitting twice the contingency.
Harris noted that consultant Bill Powell said there was no way to know about some of the problems in the back of the building like the asbestos until the workers got in there to work on it.
After further discussion, the board voted in favor of funding the $109,300 for contingencies.
Reach Jeff at 415-4692.